Dish Network's digital video recorders have resulted in a wave of lawsuits due to their ability to skip over commercials — but according to a new report, the company has now cut a deal with The Walt Disney Company to limit that ability on ABC shows. According to The Wall Street Journal, Dish has closed a deal with Disney that will disable the Auto Hop feature until three days after ABC shows are broadcast on the air. That time frame is of particular importance, says the Journal, because networks like ABC tally up viewership numbers for that same timeframe when selling commercials to advertisers.
Auto Hop has been surrounded by controversy since 2012. Fox was the first network to sue Dish over the feature, with NBC and CBS following soon thereafter; ABC then joined the fray as well. Things intensified when Dish debuted its new DVR in 2013, known as the Hopper. The product won CNET's "Best of CES" award initially, until CNET parent company CBS stepped in and quashed the award because of the ongoing legal action between Dish and CBS.
As part of the new deal that's been struck, ABC will stop its legal action against Dish, while the satellite company will be carrying the upcoming SEC Network as well as Disney and Univision's Fusion station. Disney-owned mobile apps, like WatchESPN, will also be available to Dish customers moving forward. The financial terms of the deal aren't clear, and while this means Dish can cross ABC off its list of networks to worry about, it's unclear whether any of the other networks will be inclined to reach similar deals.
Update: Dish and The Walt Disney Company have formally announced the partnership, framing the deal as a "wide-ranging distribution agreement" that "supports the companies' mutual goal to deliver the best video content to customers across multiple platforms." According to the release, the deal allows for the possibility of future advertising models, including ads on mobile devices and ads displayed past the three-day window.
In what could perhaps be the biggest news of the announcement, however, the press release notes that Dish has also obtained the rights to stream content from ABC broadcast stations, ABC Family, Disney Channel, and both ESPN and ESPN2 as part of an "Internet delivered, IP-based multichannel offering." While it's not entirely clear what that would look like, it sounds suspiciously like that kind of over-the-top TV service that companies like Intel have been trying to bring to market — without success. Those rights are said to extend to both "cleared linear and video-on-demand content", meaning this could be the makings of a true internet-based package for Dish customers. Of course, that likely won't find great success with just ABC programming, but if Dish can use leverage it's gained from Auto Hop to encourage the other networks to play ball, the company may soon be able to provide cord cutters the programming option they've been waiting for.